The main feature in Weekly Tokyo Keizai (Feb 16) is the current state and future plans of Japan's commuter rail networks. The 19th of the section's 20 pages is devoted to the problems of passenger manners. We have insights into what commuters find most annoying thanks to an annual survey conducted by the 72-member Association of Japanese Private Railways.
According to the responses, the biggest source of irritation by commuter rail passengers in 2018 was caused by people who carry baggage aboard, so stated by 37.3% of respondents (multiple replies were accepted). It was the first time for this objection to be ranked in first place, having gained two places from the association's previous survey.
Apparently it has become stylish among the younger set to commute with a rucksack slung over one's business suit. "This leaves them with both hands free to operate their smartphone," explains a spokesperson for the association.
Speaking of smartphones, a footnote to the survey explained that it has dispensed with use of the term keitai (mobile) and from this year uses smartphone exclusively.
Following in descending order (with the ranking of previous year's survey in brackets), the next nine objections included people who engage in noisy conversations or rowdy behavior (36.9%, formerly in 1st place); improper methods of sitting (34.5%, 2nd); lapses in manners when embarking or disembarking from the train (34.3%, 5th); sound leakage from headphones (23.2%, 6th); ways of using a smartphone (not in previous survey, 21.5%); boarding while in a state of inebriation (15.4%, 9th); applying cosmetics aboard the train (15.1%, 11th); discarding rubbish or empty cans on the train (14.2%, 8th); and eating or drinking at times when crowding is most severe (10.0%, 13th).
Toyo Keizai notes that as more people use maps and GPS apps, or to notify their contacts that their train has arrived at the station, they tend to concentrate on their smartphones while walking and disregard the presence of others.
"There have been more cases of people who fall off platforms or collide with other passengers because they can't divert attention from their sumaho," says a representative of the association.
Each year, NTT DoCoMo conducts a "safety class" for 1.3 million people, at which the dangers of walking while using a smartphone are emphasized.
The main telecom firms now offer applications that detect movement and issue warnings against using the smartphone while walking, but users appear resistant to anything that reduces the functionality of their devices.
Mitsutaka Kitaori, professor of social psychology at Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya and author of the 2017 title, "Why is there no end to annoying acts? A look at Japan's society from the perspective of 'nuisance studies,'" tells the magazine: "It would be desirable to build in functions that would restrict use of smartphones while walking. But without heavier coverage of tragic accidents, it's going to be difficult to change people's attitudes."
As for people's manners in general, Kitaori observed, "The definition of what constitutes 'annoyance' changes with the times. But heavy-handed regulations only have the effect of stifling society, so the best thing is to nurture a sense of empathy for those around us."© Japan Today